On Wednesday, The New York Times‘ Maggie Haberman and Annie Karni reported that Republicans on Capitol Hill and in the Trump administration are concerned that President Donald Trump has not built a “war room” for impeachment. He instead appears to be content to direct the strategy against the House Democrats’ inquiry on his own and on the fly — stymieing allies who need guidance and talking points to coordinate a defense of the president.
“For now, the White House has no organized response to impeachment, little guidance for surrogates to spread a consistent message even if it had developed one, and minimal coordination between the president’s legal advisers and his political ones,” wrote Haberman and Karni. “And West Wing aides are divided on everything from who is in charge to whether, after two years of the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, impeachment even poses a serious political threat to the president.”
“This is a very different animal than the Mueller investigation,” said former Mitch McConnell aide Josh Holmes. “It’s a political question, not a legal one. They need to persuade Republicans in the House and the Senate of a bunch of really good arguments to have the partywide insulation the president is going to prefer going into this fight.”
Complicating matters still further, wrote Haberman and Karni, is that “Behind the scenes, Mr. Trump has seesawed from projecting confidence that there is a political benefit from the impeachment fight to lashing out at aides, blaming them for the fact that he is entangled by it in the first place.”
A practical consequence of Trump’s lack of direction is that while GOP staffers are holding meetings on the upcoming impeachment, their ability to map out strategy is very limited — as was made clear when a group of GOP congressional aides gathered to discuss the impeachment threat.
“Paul Teller, an aide in the White House Office of Legislative Affairs, quizzed the group about whether it thought a long or short impeachment process would play better with the president’s base,” wrote Haberman and Karni. “Mr. Teller also told the group that he believed Mr. Trump would want to see Mr. McConnell bring impeachment to a vote on the Senate floor, where Mr. Trump would be acquitted, rather than move to simply dismiss the charges.” But these are merely questions of how impeachment will play out, not how to counteract it.
And in the middle of all this, some Republicans are reportedly starting to wonder whether it’s even worth it anymore.
“Starting to encounter Republicans who wonder if maybe the President should step aside for Pence,” tweeted right-wing blogger Erick Erickson on Tuesday. “They’re absolutely in the minority on the GOP side, but there does seem to be a fatigue setting in — tired of always fighting and always having to defend.”